Sommelier's Guide To Wine Pairing: Italian Edition

Join us as we explore the world of food and wine through the lens of sommeliers. There are always fun and unique and wine pairings to explore within each cuisine, so we asked our Wine Advisors to let us in on their favorite pairings, dishes, and styles for each cuisine. Our first edition is Italian! 


what is your favorite wine pairing with Italian cuisine?

TAMARA: My favorite, and downright naughty, pairing is fried calamari and a fizzy, cold glass of lambrusco. One with a hint of sweetness is absolutely perfect. 

PETE: Osso buco with a traditionally made Piedmontese Nebbiolo.  If it can be Giacosa Barolo, even better!

ALEX:  I am obsessed with pasta and pizza of all kinds; specifically cacio e pepe never lets me down, it's the ultimate comfort dish! I like to pair it with textural, high acid white wines (not necessarily Italian) such a Cour-Cheverny. For pizza, I like to dig up and older Rioja, the rustic spices are a great match for pepperoni. 

GINA: Branzino or Linguine con Vongole with a bright, mineral driven, white wine such a Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia. 

pasta and wine pairing

what is your favorite style of Italian restaurant?

TAMARA: Sicilian. I love the spices, the pasta, and fresh seafood. The wines of Sicily are fantastic as well - usually well-made, and very affordable.

PETE: My favorite Italian style restaurants are the ones that make you feel at home.  One that always stands out to me is Maialino in NYC.  The cuisine is so traditionally delicious and the service is always on par. 

ALEX: I love rustic Italian cooking, I lean toward Southern Italian in style. Some favorites are A-16 in San Francisco; a wine bar / pizza joint that never disappoints! Il Bucco in New York, and Oenotri and Ciccio's in Napa Valley.

GINA: The ones that have great seafood and fresh pasta. Italian doesn't have to be heavy. I love the freshness of raw crudo to start. Grilled octopus offers just the right amount of heartiness and for me, there are few more satisfying dishes than fresh squid ink pasta with uni. Delectable. 

what is your go-to wine brand or style for Italian food?

TAMARA: I'd have to say Etna Rosso, which is usually 100% Nerello Mascalese. 94 Girolamo Russo 2008 San Lorenzo makes a beautiful, sophisticated example of this grape, and the aromatics of gently ripened cherries, granite, and smoke are dreamy.

PETE: I don't think there is any cuisine on the planet that pairs better with it's native wine than Italian. Classic Italian varieties like Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and even Aglianico, have great acidity, which is such a key structural element in wine with food.

ALEX: I have to agree with Tamara, I am a huge fan of Sicilian wines specifically Nerello Mascalese, they have great acid are generally medium bodied and offer a lovely minerality. As for white wine, I look for Falanghina or Pecorino; they are usually a great value. 

GINA: For white, I'm a big fan of the Friuli and Alto-Adige regions. They tend to have a great balance of acidity, aromatics, and texture. Instead of Pinot Grigio, try a Pinot Bianco. For pizza, my go to is Lambrusco. Cleto Chiarli has several styles that are versatile. For a splurge, aged wines from Piemonte - Barolo is king. 

Lean on our team of Wine Advisors for more tips on wine pairings, selections and travel! Contact us to learn more at

How Sommeliers Get Through the Holidays Pt. 3

From selecting wines for parties and pairings, to finding great values or gems worthy of a splurge; wine questions are abundant this time of year! So, we asked our wine advisors to share their tips on ways navigate the world of wine during the holidays. Here's the last edition of our blog series, How Sommeliers Get Through the Holidays.

What's your go-to Champagne alternative? 

JORGE: Blanquette de Limoux, which not only is easy to find, but way less expensive and still has that French flavor! 

PETE: You can always look to Cremant d'Alsace, Franciacorta, Cava and even Prosecco for great value. There are many great alternatives but to name a few:

Francois Chidaine, Vouvray, "Petillant Natural," Loire Valley, France.
Analemma, "Atavus-Blanc de Noirs, Columbia Gorge, Washington
Gruet, Brut, New Mexico
Jansz, Brut Rose, Tasmania, Australia  

JENNIFER: Cremant de Loire, it's crisp and fresh! Outside of France, I think there is great Cava and Prosecco to be found. Both regions, in Spain and Italy respectively, are producing beautiful, dry wines, often for a fraction of Champagne prices. 

ALEX: I usually go for a high end Cava such as the Naveran "Dama", Raventós i Blanc or Gramona Brut Nature Gran Reserva. 

GINA: Franciacorta, Italy's best example of sparkling, is often overlooked and rarely disappoints. Cà del Bosco and Bellavista are good examples. For bargain sparkling made in Méthode Champenoise, I think Graham Beck Brut is a great value.

What's the your go-to for value Champagne? 

JORGE: Couple options are Robert Moncuit and Piper-Heidsieck! 

PETE: Bereche & Fils, Brut Reserve, Montagne de Reims, NV and Ayala, Brut Majeur, Ay, NV.  These are both great bottles that are on the dry end for a brut, but are not overly austere.  The Bereche family has been in Champagne since the mid-19th century, having sold their grapes to larger houses.  It's only in recent decades that they started bottling their own wines and the results have been fantastic. Ayala is a smaller house with a focus on low-dosage, Chardonnay dominated bottlings.  A great discovery.  

JENNIFER: Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne is a great bottle of bubbly, often found for less then $40! 

ALEX: Pierre Peters I simple adore. Most grower Champagnes offer a lower price point than some of the more established Champagne houses. Some can be tough to find but this one for the most part is readily available. 

GINA: Pol Roger Brut Réserve and Tarlant Brut Zero. Both are boutique producers who produce well balanced, bright, and versatile wines. 

How Sommeliers Get Through the Holidays Part Two

From parties to pairings, finding great values, or gems worthy of a splurge; wine questions are abundant this time of year! So we asked our wine advisors to share their tips on ways navigate the world of wine during the Holidays. Enjoy the second edition of our blog series, How Sommeliers Get Through the Holidays.

What style of wine do you bring to a holiday party?

JORGE: Bubbles!!!! Any kind. It’s always a great start to a party! 

PETE:  Fontodi, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy. Because Chianti Classico needs more love and this wine over delivers every time. 

JENNIFER: It's always fun to bring a juicy Beaujolais to a party. It's a great wine to start an evening with, and often pairs well with a variety of appetizers. 

ALEX: I like to bring textural white wines such as Chenin Blanc from the Loire, Muscadet, Ribolla Gialla, or wines from the Savoie region. Whites can get cast to the side a bit in the winter months, but a nice bottle of Chenin will go well with a wide array of finger foods. 

GINA: Champagne. It's a sure way to liven up the party and it goes with everything. Rosé champagne in particular is always a crowd pleaser. 

What's your favorite Holiday food & wine pairing?

photo credit:  Edible Experiences

photo credit: Edible Experiences

JORGE: Pinot Noir and Turkey is my favorite combo, but there are many options to choose from. 

PETE: Syrah and rib roast:  Syrah has a meatiness to it that pairs perfectly with roasted meats.  Try Domaine Monier Perreol, St. Joseph for a perfect example of what Syrah can do with food. 

JENNIFER: Oysters and champagne! Nothing starts a party then fresh oysters and a bottle of delicious bubbly.

ALEX: Sherry is so overlooked for pairings! There is a sherry style for every food imaginable. Dry Amontillado or Palo Cortado styles go great with roasted meats and caramelized vegetables. The PX style is a great dessert pairing with chocolate bark. But my favorite pairing, (to mirror Jennifer) has got to be Champagne & oysters. 

GINA: If splurging is an option, anything with truffles and champagne. A raw bar with Champagne or Chablis is always delightful. 

How Sommeliers Get Through the Holidays - part one

From selecting wines for parties and pairings, to finding great values or gems worthy of a splurge; wine questions are abundant this time of year! So, we asked our wine advisors to share their tips on ways navigate the world of wine during the holidays. Here's the first edition of our blog series, How Sommeliers Get Through the Holidays.

holiday party

What do you recommend for Holiday parties that won’t break the bank?

JORGE: I think Riesling is one of the best deals, with a touch of sweetness and lower alcohol always delivers, especially from Germany! 

PETE: For white: Ponzi Reserve Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon - a very high quality chardonnay for under $30 that stands up to higher priced California bottlings. For red:  Julien Sunier, Regnie, Beaujolais Cru, France - a crowd pleaser and for some, a discovery of how fantastic Beaujolais can be when hand crafted from producers such as Sunier.  Often under $30, Beaujolais from one of the top crus can be some of the best values for red wine in the world.

JENNIFER: For big holiday parties, I look for wines from the Southern Hemisphere. You can find great Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, or a yummy red from South America without spending lots of money.

ALEX: You will always find great value in Spanish wines! Cava for a Champagne alternative, Ribera del Duero as an alternative to Cabernet, or Mencia for an alternative to Pinot Noir. But especially if you bring an older vintage Rioja, (You'll be the life of the party.) and it's usually very well priced! 

GINA: I always choose grower champagne if there's wiggle room in the budget. These bottles are labeled with RM (récoltant-manipulant) and offer tremendous value for the quality. NV Tarlant Brut Zero is my current go to value in this category. With a more limited budget, I opt for Chenin Blanc which is super versatile and can be produced in a wide range of styles, from bone dry to rather sweet. Some delicious ones hail from the Loire Valley, California, and the North Fork of Long Island. You can't go wrong with Domaine Huet. I also love Lieu Dit from Santa Barbara.

What wine do you splurge on for the holidays?

JORGE: That’s is a tough one. Any wine with age, and I mean like 20 or 30 years old, preferably from the old world. 

PETE: There are too many to choose but here are three well worth the cash.

Egon Muller, Scharzhorberger, Kabinett, Saar, Germany
Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
An old of vintage of Domaine Jamet, Cote-Rotie, Rhone Valley, France

JENNIFER: Deep, rich red wines. I feel my biggest "splurge" during the holidays is reaching in deep of my personal cellar to find older vintages. It's the perfect time of year to share a special bottle with your close family and friends.  

ALEX: Either 1. A few bottles of older of Burgundy (especially older Chablis from a good producer). Or 2. Lots of grower Champagne and Cru Beaujolais! 

GINA: Older vintages for sure. Some of the best values for classic wines with age can be found in Barolo or Barbaresco. They're the fraction of the cost of Bordeaux and Burgundy. I've had some amazing wines from the 60's and '70s from a range of producers and they haven't failed me.  And of course, Jacque Selosse Champagne if I can find it! 

wine gifting

Need help with holiday gifting this year? Our Wine Advisors can help find the perfect wine for your clients, partners, friends or family and add a personal touch! Learn more here or contact us to get started


A New Way to Experience Art

As art lovers, we get super excited when we have the opportunity to curate an experience around it.  When pairing wine with art, our intent is to heighten your senses and facilitate a deeper connection with both the art and wine.  To us, it's important to learn about the artist's story.  What was the artist's state of mind during the creative process?  What was the inspiration?  When were these pieces created and why then?  We collaborate with the artist to analyze the artwork and develop themes to help with the wine selection.  The world of wine is vast, so narrowing it down to a selection that helps to create an immersive, dynamic experience is our goal.  

We recently curated a wine pairing experience with the artist, Kasra Namvari, and his exhibit, Blackout Dreams.  In speaking with Kasra, we identified three key themes which served as inspiration for the pairings.  

The most recently created pieces express a happier period in the artist's life when he decided to join his girlfriend in New York City.  There is a sense of wonderment, whimsy, and playfulness with heavy use of flowers as well as bright colors.  We paired these pieces with the Los Pilares Muscat LaDona 2013.  It is a pet-nat made with the highly floral muscat grape from an unexpected place, San Diego.  The wine is fun, bright, and whimsical.  It was made as an experiment and turned out to be a stunner.  In some ways, it was a leap of faith similar to Kasra's decision to move to NYC to be with his girlfriend and start a new adventure.

ART: Momentary Lapse of Reason, Silenced, The Night at the Cabaret WINE: Los Pilares Muscat LaDona 2013

ART: Momentary Lapse of Reason, Silenced, The Night at the Cabaret
WINE: Los Pilares Muscat LaDona 2013

Another theme we derived from his art is darkness, exhibiting feelings of being challenged, unstable, and full of angst.  This was a period when Kasra and his girlfriend were physically and emotionally separated.  The darkness depicted in the art led us to choose a wine that is particularly tannic - almost a bit harsh upfront with an intense, brooding sensibility.  The wine needed to show a lot of depth to match the layered emotions that the artist exudes through these pieces.  We selected the Perliss Estate "The Raven" 2011, a premium, age-worthy Napa Valley wine made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  In Greek mythology, ravens are associated with Apollo, the god of prophecy.  They are said to be a symbol of good luck, and were god's messengers in the mortal world.  In all of these dark pieces, there is a distinct glow that is visibly distracting.  Perhaps an omen of better times to come. 

ART: Dreaming of Dietrich, Grace WINE: Perliss Estate "The Raven" Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

ART: Dreaming of Dietrich, Grace
WINE: Perliss Estate "The Raven" Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

The subject matter in these pieces is the forest in northern Iran where Kasra used to visit as a child.  The series shows his fading memory of this forest, a place he remembers fondly, yet not so vividly.  With a distant memory, new evolved impressions may alter reality and lead you to form a new version of the experience.  When selecting the wine pairing, we focused on the structure of the wine - one that really allows for the wine to evolve and result in a lingering, almost transformative finish.  There is a sense of familiarity of fruit flavor when you first taste this wine, but then it takes on many different layers of impressions that are more savory, earthy, and wild...almost transporting you to the wilderness.  The vineyard site is a unique location where the vines are own-rooted in 40 ft deep banks of beach sand alongside the Sacramento River Delta.  This distinctive terroir and ancient vines contribute to the wine's capacity to transform and evolve as you taste.  The label's look and feel added a nice complementary visual aid to the pairing as well.

ART: The Fading Forest, The Fading Tree, Shomal WINE: Bedrock Evangelho Vineyard Heritage 2014

ART: The Fading Forest, The Fading Tree, Shomal
WINE: Bedrock Evangelho Vineyard Heritage 2014

Art + wine have a way of transporting you to a different state of mind and feeling, offering new perspectives on experiences and your memories of them.  This project allowed guests to experience art in a completely unexpected manner and think of wine in a new light. We thrive on creating one of a kind experiences that bring intrigue and delight.  Contact us to learn how we can enhance your event with creative programming.